Monday, August 13, 2018

King of Ska Derrick Morgan at the Jazz Cafe

The Jazz Cafe was packed last night for the King of Ska Derrick Morgan. The atmosphere resembled a Jamaican blues party of the sixties with boisterous dancing,  especially from a contingent of ageing skinheads, exuberant singing and incessantly brilliant ska and rocksteady. It was a fantastic vibe and Derrick, now aged 78, seemed to thrive on it. Now unsteady on his feet, he sat for much of his 65 minute set, but his voice is as strong as ever. Backing by the Ruff Cutt Band, featuring Japanese sax player Miss Megoo (real name Meguni Manaku), a former busker in Brixton, was top notch, and the time flew by as classic track followed classic track.
Derrick was one of Jamaica's most prolific recording artists in the sixties and early seventies, with no fewer than 17 singles being issued in the UK in 1968 alone, so his set could do no more than scratch the surface of his back catalogue. But many of his biggest hits were included, including his first ska record 'Fat Man', released in 1960. First up was 'Reggae Train' and others included 'Miss Lulu', 'Don't Call Me Daddy', 'Conquering Ruler', 'Moon Hop', 'Greedy Gal', 'Be Still' and 'Tougher Than Tough'. There was a charming version of 'Houswives Choice', with Miss Megoo taking Patsy Todd's role and sounding quite similar, despite her Japanese accent. Derrick launched into a couple of medleys which included 'Wet Dream' and Desmond Dekker's '007 (Shanty Town)', along with a couple of his big rival Prince Buster's songs, such as 'Black Head Chinaman', a song which Buster, unhappy about Derrick's success, wrote to satirise Derrick's relationship with Leslie Kong. Derrick's retort, the classic 'Blazing Fire', followed.
Derrick was introduced by veteran Jamaican DJ Dennis Alcapone who said that Morgan was the man who had inspired him, who then came on stage to lead the very loud applause. Rather than leaving the stage, Derrick remained for his encore, comprising the skinhead anthem 'Moon Hop', which got the older skinheads dancing even more enthusiastically (unbothered by how many people they grabbed or shoved) and finally Toots and the Maytals' '54-46 Was My Number'.
This was the first time I had seen Derrick and I'm so glad that I've caught him at last. This was truly an evening to remember.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Latest music deaths

Time to catch up briefly on a few music deaths over the last month or so.
The latest is that of Louisiana swamp pop singer G G Shinn, at the age of 78, one of the stars of Ponderosa Stomps in 2011 and 2017 (picture above). I wasn't too familiar with him when he appeared in 2011, dressed in a velvet smoking jacket and coming across, as one of my friends remarked, like the 'Louisiana Liberace.' Once a member of the Fabulous Boogie Kings, he was a fine singer with star quality, as his 2017 performance showed.
Another former Ponderosa Stomp artist (in 2008) who has died is rockabilly singer Lorrie Collins, who was one half of fifties rock and roll act the Collins Kids. Lorrie was just 16 when she appeared as Ricky Nelson's girlfriend on the TV show 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet' and teamed up with her brother Larry as a successful rockabilly act. Larry is still in great form as a guitarist, as he showed at last year's Viva Las Vegas.
New Orleans piano player Henry Butler is another superb artist who has passed on. When I first saw him at Jazzfest as part of the Henry Butler Trio in 1989 he was playing jazz, but he was a very capable of New Orleans styled boogie woogie, as he showed at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2008.
One of the first pop singers who caught my attention way back in 1957 was Tab Hunter, whose
version of 'Young Love', was a smash hit. My sister brought it home as a 78, as she did with the follow up, Ninety Nine Ways. Tab wasn't a great singer but was very successful as a film actor, appearing in over 40 movies with the likes of John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. He was 86 when he died.
The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.